Coming off a very emotional 2-1 victory over Ghana, the USA will try to take advantage of a Portugal team still reeling from its 4-0 defeat to Germany, with a ticket to the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup very much on the line on Sunday.
Portugal looked completely lost against Germany and suffered both injuries and suspensions, and with their World Cup hopes hinging on a solid result against the USA, the time is now for Cristiano Ronaldo to step up.
Clint Dempsey scored the fastest goal in the United States' World Cup history against Ghana, and while the team struggled for much of the second half, the three points will give Jurgen Klinsmann and his men hope an upset against the favoured Portuguese team could be on the books.
Date: Sunday, June 22
Time: 11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET
Venue: Arena Amazonia, Manaus
Nothing went right for Portugal in their opening loss against a dominant German team, but the most worrying sign was Ronaldo's inability to influence the match in any way. The star winger has been struggling with his health for the last two months, and against Die Mannschaft, he looked like a shell of the player who owns the Ballon d'Or.
Per the Daily Mail's Chris Waugh, team doctors warned Ronaldo he was unfit to train ahead of his team's match against the USA, advice he chose to ignore.
Pepe will not be playing against the USA due to suspension, and Fabio Coentrao suffered an injury against Germany that will sideline him for the remainder of the tournament.
The Real Madrid full-back told reporters he believed in his teammates and Ronaldo in particular before boarding a plane back to Europe, as reported by Inside Spanish Football's Tom Conn:
I think my teammates will bring us joy and Cristiano will have his day against the United States.
Of course, after a 4-0 loss, things are more complicated, but the atmosphere within the camp is still great and on Sunday, we shall overcome.
[...]Cristiano is the best player in the world.
The Yanks will be without injured striker Jozy Altidore, but morale is high in the American camp. Ghana had been a bane for the team for years, and by finally beating the Black Stars, the Americans now believe they're capable of anything.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones was one of the brightest stars against Ghana, and via ESPN FC's Doug McIntyre, he told reporters his teammates should find inspiration in another sport to overcome the Portuguese squad:
A team is important, not just two or three players. The NBA Finals showed how it works. If you stick together like a team, and fight like a team ...you will win the game. The Spurs were the better team, and that is why they won the championship.
Both form and momentum are clearly on the side of the Yanks, but as long as Portugal can field the best player in the world, anything can happen on Sunday.
Without Pepe and Coentrao, Portugal's defence could be in trouble should it face heavy pressure. Manager Paulo Bento knows this, and in order to protect his back line, he'll most likely choose an offensive approach built around the sheer athleticism Portugal have in midfield and out wide.
Jones and Kyle Beckerman were splendid in keeping possession against Ghana, and their defensive contributions were vital in protecting a one-goal lead for the bulk of that match.
They'll be tested against the likes of Joao Moutinho, but if they can win the midfield battle, the USA should be able to take advantage of a defensive unit missing its two most talented players.
Final prediction: USA 2-2 Portugal
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